When British actor Benedict Cumberbatch signed for his first cinematic roles in the early 2000s, he immediately unveiled a proclivity -- and a gift -- for essaying a diverse array of characterizations. Cumberbatch began with BBC television productions, notably a supporting part in the lesbian-themed period drama Tipping the Velvet (2002) and the lead role of the brilliant, physically disabled scientist Stephen Hawking in the BBC telemovie Hawking (2004). Cumberbatch landed one of his first significant international crossover roles (and his first major big-screen assignment) as one of the leads in Michael Apted's arthouse hit Amazing Grace (2006) -- portraying William Pitt, an 18th century British prime minister who crusaded against slavery.
While appearing on the British stage and in British television shows, Cumberbatch slowly built up an impressive résumé of supporting film roles. He had a small (but significant) part in Joe Wright's period drama Atonement (2007), and played William Carey, Mary Boleyn's husband in The Other Boleyn Girl (2008).
In 2010, Cumberbatch took on his breakout role, playing Sherlock Holmes in a BBC series reboot. His career exploded after the show took off. He played The Necromancer/Smaug in The Hobbit trilogy, Khan in Star Trek Into Darkness, a plantation owner in 12 Years a Slave and nabbed his first true starring role playing Julian Assange in The Fifth Estate. In 2014 Cumberbatch portrayed the pioneering British mathematician Alan Turing in The Imitation Game, and his work earned him a Best Actor nomination from the Academy, the first nod of his career.